The process of going through chemotherapy can be scary and, at times, alienating. If you have a friend, family member or loved one undergoing chemotherapy, you may be trying to find a way in which you can show your support and let them know you are there for them, no matter what. This article discusses the helpful things you can do and buy for them.
What can I do for a friend going through chemo?
There are many thoughtful things you can do for cancer patients that may help, including giving the gift of your time and/or someone they can talk to. Also learning how to talk to a cancer patient can help both them and you and this is discussed elsewhere on this website.
Helping with hospital visits, being thoughtful when visiting, researching the important resources/services that they may want ….these are all helpful and valuable ways to show support to any cancer patient. You can read How To Help Someone With Cancer: What You Need To Know for more general ideas of what you can do.
But someone having chemo has extra needs and considerations, they have specific side effects to deal with and regular intense hospital visits. There are many things you can do and get in these specific circumstances. But before we discuss what cancer gifts to get for chemotherapy patients, it’s important to acknowledge there are many items that are not appropriate.
What you should not get a chemo patient
Flowers or plants
Although flowers and chocolates are typical ‘cheer-up and ‘get-well-soon gifts, this is not the case for chemotherapy patients. Whilst at first thought this seems like a nice idea, it is recommended they stay away from flowers and plants simply because of the germs they carry. Even though these germs are harmless to healthy people, someone going a course of chemo treatment will have a reduced ability to fight infection, so flowers and plants can make them ill.
Items for hair or chemotherapy hair loss
Whilst it is common to associate chemotherapy with hair loss, modern treatments mean that not everyone loses their hair. So it would be very presumptuous to get a gift of a cap or scarf to cover any hair loss (and possibly upsetting). If you are thinking of buying any sort of hair item, it is best to check with the cancer patient first or their caregiver.
Food (including candies, chocolates, and comfort food)
Chemotherapy can wreak havoc with the taste buds and cancer patients can go off the food that they used to love or they may feel too nauseous to eat during treatment. You might think that a bar of their favorite chocolate would be just what they need, but you might also find that they just can’t face it. Added to this many patients change their diets when they have a cancer diagnosis, some cut out sugar from their diet completely whilst others stop eating meat. So unless you know them well and can verify what they are eating, it’s best to stay away from most types of food.
What do cancer patients want as gifts?
Having said what you shouldn’t buy, there is a wide range of therapy-safe comfort and practical gifts you can give, that are thoughtful and appropriate. Some of them don’t have to cost you any money.
We know that everyone is unique, but also everyone’s cancer is unique. So there is no absolute ideal gift that will suit all cancer patients. Added to this is the fact that everyone responds to treatment differently. So below are ideas of things you can do or shop for, but please do bear in mind:-
- the cancer patient
- their treatment (not all cancer treatment is the same)
- their response to treatment (side effects can vary alot)
Here are our best gift ideas for a chemotherapy patient
Gift of your time: 11 Helpful things you can do that don’t cost money
1. Listen To Them
Sometimes, the best gifts are those you don’t spend money on. Simply being there for your friend, listening to them may be enough support.
2. Support Their Family/Friends
Another gift you can give your friend/loved one is ensuring that their family gets enough support during this time – as their spouse or loved ones may be struggling too.
3. Do Their Shopping
A cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy is not only immunocompromised but may feel sick and /or weak after treatment. So they won’t be able to head to the shops as easily as they did before. You could offer to do their shopping either as a one-off or regularly.
4. Become Their PA
Helping your friend or loved one manage their time better, by taking care of some of their affairs might be a good gift. For example, answering any calls they might get or communicate with their workplace. Obviously, this needs consent and a lot of discussions.
5. Send Inspiration Messages
Carefully selected quotes and memes sent to a cancer patient can show concern and that you care, and is a quick and easy gift to send.
6. Laundry Service
Laundry becomes 10x more difficult for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. So helping them with it (or paying for a laundry service) might help take some of the pressure off.
7. Become Their Chauffeur
Chemo patients often have to visit the hospital multiple times a week, and it can be challenging to organize their travel. Offering to be their chauffeur can take a lot of pressure off their shoulders.
8. A Night ‘In’.
If your friend or loved one can’t go out – you can go to them! Watch your favorite movie and bring your night out inside their home.
9. A Promise
Have you always planned on going on a dream holiday together? Although your friend/loved one may have to stay at home now, you could make plans for the future. Promise to do the things you’ve always wanted to do together! and then keep the promise. It’s good for them to have something to look forward to.
10. Send A Free Cancer Empathy Card
Simply choose any cancer empathy card from our collection, enter your details and post electronically. There is no need to sign up or sign in to anything. A free and easy gift that will be appreciated by any cancer patient.
11. Research Freebies That Are Offered To Chemotherapy Patients
Our cancer freebies directory has a list of free items for any person going through chemotherapy (regardless of age or cancer stage). Depending on what country the person is in, you might be able to find them items like free skin products, lip balm, blankets, holidays, financial advice, help with medical bills and so on. All items listed are thoughtful donations.
68 Gifts to purchase for chemo patients: Ideas from lip balm to online classes
We have listed gifts in no particular order, as there is no best or worst gift to get cancer or chemo patients. They may not all be suitable, you know your friend/loved one better than we do. So as you go through this list please think of who your friend/loved one is and if you can, what side effects they are experiencing and choose the gift or gifts you think would benefit them the best.
10 Clothes and accessories to get for chemo patients
During and after chemo treatment, many patients experience fatigue and may spend more time in bed. Prioritize their comfort and help them unwind with a luxurious pajama set!
3. Functional Clothing
Although many chose to wear loungewear when undergoing treatment, others prefer to stick to their usual clothing style. You can help by buying clothes they will love but are functional.
4. Bathrobe/Lounge Robe
A cozy robe gift means the cancer patient will be comfortable no matter where they go and can be worn year-round. Also helpful for potential hospital stays and convalescence.
5. Cozy Socks
A cancer patient going through chemotherapy has to sit still for a large amount of time. They are also more susceptible to the cold, so a trusted pair of warm bed socks is a nice comforting chemo gift. And even if the chemo treatment doesn’t make them cold, they can give a comfy, pampering feeling which may be needed.
Hats are another great way to ensure cancer patients will stay warm during treatment. When you shop for a hat, make sure that it is made of a gentle fabric. But remember that not everyone who has chemo treatment loses their hair, so you might just want to buy a hat as a gift for warmth and not hair loss. Plus hair loss can be a sensitive subject, so make sure this is the correct thing to buy. Check with the cancer patient or the people who are close to them first.
Scarves are another good gift for chemo patients, to help keep them warm during chemo treatment. We suggest that they are small and lightweight, so they can be layered.
As mentioned above chemo treatment could make patients cold and usually the first parts to feel the cold are the hands. A good gift to deal with this could be warm ‘touch-screen’ friendly gloves that will still allow phone usage.
Cardigans are another good gift idea for chemo patients, especially as they can be taken on and off when needed. Opt for soft, gentle natural fabrics as opposed to heavy, itchy knits.
When undergoing treatment, comfort is always key. Therefore, a pair of comfy slippers might be a welcome gift.
10 Items for passing the time
1. Books or magazines
Chemo treatment takes time and novels, magazines or audiobooks can help pass that time and take the mind away from the stress of cancer and its therapies. Please bear in mind that sometimes treatment can cause brain fog, so it might be best to get something light and easy to read.
2. A Colouring Book and Colouring Pencils
Adult coloring books are a great stress-reliever and can help pass the time quicker. And if you’re getting them a coloring book gift, it only makes sense to get them some good-quality pens and pencils to help bring their work to life!
A notebook or diary is another good gift idea, as it can use it to track chemo and other hospital/therapy appointments or the cancer patient can write about how they are feeling.
4. Portable games console
Game consoles are a great way to pass the time. Even better, the patient can play online against friends and family, staying connected during this difficult time.
5. Puzzle Books
Puzzle books also may help pass the time whilst undergoing treatment, as long as they do not have ‘chemo brain fog‘. Some great options include Sudoku, word searches, and crosswords.
A Kindle is lightweight, compact, and can contain thousands of books in its hard drive. As a result, its an excellent for a bookworm who has been diagnosed with cancer.
7. Board Games
Travel-sized board games are another great way to pass the time and can be played with family, friends, or other patients.
8. Embroidery Set
Many patients enjoy taking part in crafts during their treatment, so an embroidery set might give them an opportunity to try out something new and stay productive.
Puzzles, such as jigsaws, can be a good way to distract from the treatment and also something to do at home whilst convalescing.
10. Hobby Related Gifts
Just because they are undergoing chemotherapy treatment, does not mean the fun has to stop and they may not want to let go of their hobbies and interests. So gifts focusing on these might be a good choice.
21 Products to pamper, comfort, and provide stress relief
1. Soft Blanket
A warm cozy blanket is an appropriate comfort gift for chemotherapy patients and can also help fight off feelings of cold. Choose a lightweight and soft blanket so that it can easily be carried.
2. Heated Blanket
If the cancer patient is feeling particularly cold, a heated blanket is a perfect solution – it can have their body a nice toasty and warm in no time at all!
3. Hand And Nail Cream
Chemo treatment can affect skin and nails and moisturizing the skin regularly can reduce soreness and pain. So a gentle non-perfumed hand cream might be a welcome and helpful gift.
As we have said, cancer treatments can be dehydrating and this will affect their skin. So a nice body or face moisturizer lotion might not only be welcome but could be a nice pampering item.
5. Bubble Bath or Shower Gel
If your friend/loved on is suffering from aches and pains, you can purchase a specialist bubble bath designed to soothe tired and aching muscles.
Shower gel can also be a good gift, especially if you buy products designed that may help ease some of the symptoms they are feeling – such as fatigue, tension, or anxiety.
Just make sure that the bubble bath or shower gel is gentle on the skin as they may be more sensitive than usual.
6. Hand Soap
A nice gentle on the skin, non-perfumed, natural handsoap might be a welcome gift, as the patient may need to pay closer attention to their hygiene because they will be more susceptible to infection.
7. Eye Mask
An eye mask can block out surrounding lights and relieve tension. This can help them sleep more comfortably both during chemo and in convalescence.
8. Neck, Inflatable, V-shaped Pillow or Snuggly Pillow
During chemo treatment, there is a lot of time spent sitting down. A soft pillow or neck rest can be very valuable to put under the legs or behind the head for support and comfort. If they feel fatigued or uncomfortable, a V-pillow is a great way to help them relax and unwind. It will also give support to the whole body. Helpful for home and hospital.
9. Lip Balm
I don’t think we need to mention the effects of chemo on dehydration anymore! Lips are also affected and a nice, delicate non-fragranced lip balm can be a good soother.
10. Essential Oils
Essential oils have been shown to help battle feelings of stress and anxiety and promote a good night’s sleep. In fact studies in cancer patients indicate that those exposed to essential oils had reduced anxiety, stress, and nausea and improved sleep. Aromatherapy is generally considered safe, but allergic/hypersensitivity reactions and contact dermatitis have been reported with lavender, bergamot, and other essential oils. So it’s best to check with your friend/ loved one, whether they have any skin or other sensitivities before buying.
11. Stuffed Animals
Stuffed animals are a traditional gift to give to somebody when they are sick – and for a good reason. Sweet and comforting, they can be the best choice for the right type of person.
12. Memory Books
Scrapbooks or photo albums are a great gift to show a cancer patient you have been thinking about them. It could be helpful in lifting their spirits considerably.
13. Heating Pads
If your loved one is experiencing any aches and pains, heating pads are a useful as they can help deal with pain and relieve any tension they may be holding in their muscles.
14. Foot Spa
A foot spa is another good way to ensure chemo patients can relax and unwind, especially if they are feeling particularly tired or groggy.
15. Body Roller
Chemo patients often hold a lot of tension in their body – a body roller can be a good way to help them relax their muscles and unwind. Do check first though whether they have had any lymph nodes removed. As a massage in areas of lymph node removal is not recommended
16. Eye Gel Mask
If your friend/loved one is feeling fatigued after undergoing treatment, a gel eye mask can help them relax, helping them feel more like their ‘normal’ self.
17. Online Guided Meditation Class
Meditation can be a great way to relax, but if you have never done it before, it can be hard to know where to start. An online class with an instructor means they will be able to get to grips with the basics.
18. Inspirational Art Or A Framed Photograph
Framed prints, posters and canvases are a good gift if you find the perfect photograph or quote to feature. Focus on memories you have shared that capture your relationship. Or perhaps something inspirational or comforting?
19. Fidget Spinner
Fidget spinners are more than just a toy; they have been proven to help deal with feelings of stress and anxiety.
20. Silk Bedding
Silk bedding not only feels soft and luxurious, it is also excellent for those with sensitive skin, and unlike other materials does not collect dust.
21. Stress Ball
Sometimes, cancer patients will need to find a way to relieve their stress and tension. A stress ball can help.
9 Food and drink-related items
1. Peppermint Tea
This is our first exception to the no foods rule that we mentioned at the start of this article. Peppermint tea is a good relaxer for both the mind and body and there is nothing in it that would interfere with any therapy. Also, if there is chemotherapy nausea, peppermint tea can help.
2. Other Herbal Teas
Herbal teas have a range of benefits, from settling an uneasy stomach to soothing anxiety and stress. You can now also find teas to help sleep, relax, be more awake…… There is such a wide variety. And the great thing about herbal teas is that they are naturally caffeine-free, so you don’t have to worry about any caffeine side effects. You can also get some great gift sets. For any tea lover, the possibilities are endless.
Ginger, whether in the form of sweets or herbal tea, is an excellent tool in fighting feelings of nausea.
This is another exception to our rule regarding no food. As there is evidence that when taken with standard anti-nausea medications, ginger can reduce or eliminate nausea and vomiting which can occur during and after chemotherapy treatments. It is also cancer treatment safe.
During treatment, a patient should have access to snacks. Try to provide them with a mixture of healthy, nutritious food and a few sweet treats. But please be sure to follow our guidelines on chemo patients’ dietary changes, and what they should and should not eat.
Mints can help somebody freshen up and can also be used to alleviate feelings of chemo-induced nausea. Before you get these check with the patient on how their diet may have changed.
6. Fancy Water Bottle
Chemotherapy can be very dehydrating and it’s always good to stay hydrated at the best of times. A few little water bottles or a fancy water bottle is a good reminder to drink.
7. A Home-Cooked Meal or a Takeaway
You can be a big help by providing them with home-cooked meal delivery to their door. Alternatively, you can batch cook and store meals in their freezer so that all they have to do is heat it.
However, sometimes, there is nothing better than a good takeaway at the end of a long day. So you perhaps treat them to a take-out from their favorite restaurant.
But before you make or buy a meal, please do make sure you understand the effects of chemo on appetite and diet and if in doubt ask if certain foods are OK.
8. Vouchers for Takeaways/Restaurant
Your friend/loved one may already be dreaming about the first place they can go after their treatment is complete, when they don’t feel so nauseous and can go back to their old eating habits. You can make this experience even more special by gifting them with a voucher from their favorite restaurant.
9. Cool Bag
There is nothing worse than going to take a sip of water, and it is warm! Help ensure chemotherapy patients stay hydrated by giving them a small cool bag in which they can store their water and snacks or medicines
11 Practical gifts for chemo patients
A spacious backpack is a great way to ensure there is enough space to carry everything they need, and means they won’t have to carry multiple bags to treatments.
2. Anti-Sickness Bracelets
Feeling queasy is a common effect of chemo; as a result, an anti-sickness bracelet can help give some relief with no additional side effects.
3. Travel Toothbrush
Your friend may feel as though their mouth is quite dry or experience an unpleasant taste in their mouth during chemo. A travel toothbrush means they can help ease some of these symptoms.
As mentioned previously, patients having chemo may need a way to wash out bad tastes from their mouths, and mouthwash will do this.
5. Ipad/Phone Stand
An Ipad stand means that they don’t constantly have to have a device in their hands, which can be tiresome when watching a movie or listening to music.
6. Lap Tray
A lap tray ensures that your friend/loved one does not have to balance loads of things directly on their lap and that they have easy access to everything they need when resting in bed or on the sofa. Also useful for any hospital stays.
7. USB Light
A USB light is a useful gift, especially if your friend likes to read late at night as they won’t have to disturb anyone or go out of their way to turn the light off.
8. Hot Water Bottles
A hot water bottle is a great way to warm up. You could purchase more than one – a small one they can bring along to appointments and a larger one when relaxing at home.
Spare headphones are essential for some, to ensure the chemo patient can ‘check out’ from what is happening around them and listen to their music, audiobooks, or Television show.
Sometimes, a patient may prefer to sleep during therapy. Earplugs block out the surrounding noise, meaning they will fall asleep quicker. They might also help later in the day when at home and trying to get much-needed rest.
21. Portable chargers
The patient is likely to be using many devices during this time, which can quickly run out of battery. A portable charger ensures they always have access to the materials they need.
5 Subscription services
1. An Audiobook Subscription
Physical copies of books can be heavy and difficult to carry around and sometimes more mentally draining than an audiobook. Therefore, your friend may benefit from a subscription to an audiobook service, such as audible. They can then sit back, relax, and listen to a new book each month!
2. Music Service Subscription
Music can be a good way to relax during and after therapy sessions, it could also help take the mind away from the everyday stress of cancer.
A subscription to a music service, such as Spotify, can provide your friends with hours of entertainment. You could even make them a personalized playlist.
3. TV/Film Streaming Subscription
Like a music subscription, a TV streaming subscription can help pass the long hours they are spending at the hospital or inside their home.
4. Amazon Prime Subscription
As a result of the treatment, your friend may not be able to visit the shops. By providing them with a subscription to Amazon Prime, they can order anything they need to be delivered to their door the very next day.
5. Magazine Subscription
Whether they are a fashion lover or a fan of crafts, finding a magazine subscription that matches your friend’s interests will provide them with hour upon hour of entertainment during therapy and when resting at home.
Chemotherapy Care Packages
Putting together or buying a cancer/chemo gift pack is a very thoughtful way to show you care. If you are putting together your own chemo care pack or gift basket then there are lots of ideas here that can guide you on what may be appropriate. Or you might want to get one of our care packs, which are designed by people who have had experience with cancer and chemo and are packed with items that will genuinely help.
Below is a selection of chemo hampers
If your loved one is relying on the support of a particular charity during this time, they may prefer that you make a charitable donation as opposed to purchasing a gift.
So..what is a good gift for a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy?
Although we have tried to give our best gift ideas for a chemotherapy patient, everyone is individual, has their own likes and dislikes, and will respond to treatment differently. So please make sure when you get a gift, or are putting together a care package, that you get something appropriate to them and their treatment. The best thing you can always give is your support, time and a listening ear. A great chemo gift is a nice added extra or an important indication that you care about and support them when you cannot be there in person to give support. We are very happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions…..
Dr Cohen started her working life as a research scientist and lecturer with over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.
She followed a classical scientific career until she left mainstream science in 2000 (which coincided with the birth of her first daughter) to establish the Life Science Communications company, Euroscicon Ltd.
Euroscicon Ltd was her first company (which she sold in 2016).
In 2013 Dr Cohen was diagnosed with Cancer and set up Cancer Care Parcel which provides appropriate gifts for people with cancer.
Dr Cohen is the lead scientific advisor at Optimised Healthcare. A medical profiling company which provides advanced disease prediction, prevention and wellness optimization services.
She also works with and establishes businesses and charities which benefit local, national and international communities.